Ready to explore the great outdoors this summer? Looking for things to do now that you’re hundreds of miles away from the Wi-Fi and your cell phone reception is spotty, at best? There were days not that long ago when we knew how to entertain ourselves without technology. And days before that when camping wasn’t that much different than living. You know that, of course. However, it’s easy to forget when your kids are begging for food and you realize you forgot to pack the can opener. So, you dropped the ball on that camping packing list, but you don’t have to miss out on the fun.
And let’s be real: What’s the point of camping if you’re not nice to nature? So, to ensure you’re being the best forest guest, make it an eco-camping trip. This is when you camp while being mindful of the environment. A few ways to avoid ruining ecosystems and hurting woodland creatures is to leave the machinery at home. The last thing you want to do is burn fossil fuels in the middle of the forest. Also, make sure you recycle the items you use during your trip and avoid using harmful chemicals. Camping should be fun and safe for everyone, including the trees.
Camping doesn’t have to be a nightmare (as long as you have your nature jokes and puns memorized), and you can easily make it enjoyable for even your tiniest camper or most nature-avoiding kid. To the rescue? This list of really fun camping activities for kids and parents alike, perfect for the warmer weather.
Bring along a bow and some safety arrows next time you go camping. You don’t have to get a very expensive set if your kids aren’t going to pick it up as a regular activity, but it’s a great way to pass some time. See who can shoot the farthest and give everyone targets. When you’re doing this, make sure it’s an open clearing and you have the campground’s permission (if you’re staying in one). The last thing you want to do is harm anyone or anything.
2. Mud Paintings
Everyone loves playing in the mud, right? Strip your kids down to the bare minimum of clothing so that they don’t ruin their clothes. Next, dump a few cups or a bucket of water in some dirt not too far from your campsite. Finally, give them some paper (or point them to a more solid surface, like a sidewalk) and let them unleash their inner Picassos.
3. DIY Slip and Slide
Tarps are cheap. Real cheap. If you’re camping near a lake or creek, consider bringing along a few and lining them up in a path towards the water. Dump a few buckets of water over the plastic and then let your kids slip and slide their way into the water.
4. Crayon Rubbings
Remember doing these when you were little? Give each kiddo a color or two and a notebook, and let them set out to do rubbings on the different barks on trees, leaves, etc. When they get home (or back to camp, if you bring a book), they can try to identify what they rubbed out.
5. Playdough Nature Prints
Similar to crayon rubbings, you can also use clay or playdough to make prints of leaves, bark, or unearthed fossils. Afterward, you can let them dry and make jewelry and other crafts from their prints. Make sure not to leave any of your clay behind as it can be harmful to animals.
6. Freeze Tag
If you’re looking to run out some more of your kids’ energy before settling in for the night or if you’re just trying to keep them busy while you fix a campfire dinner, suggest a game of freeze tag. In case you forgot, the rules are simple: If you get tagged, you have to freeze in place. Only another player can unfreeze you.
7. Flora/Fauna Sighting
Just like with bug collecting, every outing while camping can be a learning opportunity. Whether they do rubbings or pressings, take pictures, or simply draw what they find, having your kid look for new and different wildlife is one of the best parts of exploring the great outdoors. If you’re going to adventure through a new area, consider grabbing a birdwatcher’s book for that specific region. Don’t rush your hikes, but take time to stop and identify what you find along the way.
8. Make DIY Bird Feeders
Even when you’re not hiking, you can still be on the lookout for all the gorgeous species of birds that live in your area. You can even draw them in with one of those old-school pinecone bird feeders.
9. Create a Fairy Garden
Fairy gardens don’t have to have the crazy-cute miniature furniture they sell at craft stores. Look online before your trip to give you some ideas on how to build a fairy garden. Once you set up camp, help your children create a garden somewhat close by that they can check in on each day. (Bonus points to the mama who gets up and moves things around a bit like the garden had visitors.)
If you have a reliable GPS or enough Wi-Fi to use your phone, geocaching could earn you some brownie points with your adventurous (and tech-missing) kid. Think of it as a modern-day treasure hunt: Using your GPS or mobile device and other navigational techniques, you’ll try to find containers called “geocaches” located at specific coordinates.
The geocache typically consists of a waterproof container with some sort of logbook and a pen or pencil. If you find one, you’ll sign the logbook with your family’s established code name and the date, then return it exactly as you found it. Bonus? Larger geocaches might even contain trading items like keychains or small toys. Just make sure that you’re using common sense when deciding which geocaching areas to explore to ensure your family’s safety.
There is nothing like sitting around a campfire making s’mores. You're going to need graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows to get started. Rough it by using long sticks as your pokers; just make sure to rinse them off first. Put your gooey sandwich together once your marshmallows are roasted to your liking, and add some M&Ms or gummy bears for extra sweetness.
12. Campsite Crafts
Does your little one love craft time? While you're in the great outdoors, the woods are your Michaels. Just make sure to pack glue, googly eyes, scissors, and paint to add a little pizzazz to your camping crafts. Make an eclectic rock and colorful leaf statue, or put together a necklace made of flowers. In the forest, there's no limit to what you and your kids can create!
13. Bottle Rockets
Where else can you safely deploy a bottle rocket if not the forest? Summer camp is an excellent time for many activities, including exciting STEM projects. Build your launch pad out of sticks, LEGOs, or whatever you find in the woods. Then add the proper ingredients and blast off your bottle rocket while squeezing in a little science lesson.
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